The items were found 30 years ago in Guitarrero Cave high in the Andes Mountains. Other artifacts found along with the textiles had been dated to 12,000 ago and even older. However, the textiles themselves had never been dated, and whether they too were that old had been controversial, according to Edward Jolie, an archaeologist at Mercyhurst College (PA) who led this latest research.
The cave had been disturbed frequently by human and geological activity, so it was possible that the textiles could have belonged to much more recent inhabitants. What’s more, the prior radiocarbon dates for the site had been taken from bone, obsidian, and charcoal—items that are known to sometimes produce inaccurate radiocarbon ages. According to Jolie, charcoal especially can produce dates that tend to overestimate a site’s age.
Story: Kevin Stacey, University of Chicago Press Journals | Photo: George Weber